Bush's rookie season an inspiration to Rangers

Bush's rookie season an inspiration to Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Rangers right-hander Matt Bush won't win a Comeback Player of the Year Award, given that this is his rookie season. In fact, his teammate, Ian Desmond, is a pretty solid candidate to take home that prize.

But it would be tough to find a better comeback story than the one the 30-year-old Bush has put together this season. At this time last year, he was serving out the waning days of what ended up being a 39-month stay in prison for a DUI causing great bodily injury at a work release center in Jacksonville, Fla.

Now he's a prominent late-innings reliever for the American League West champion Rangers, and they expect his upper-90s fastball to help lead them to their first World Series title.

"I'm just happy to be here, happy to be with this team," Bush said. "I'm happy to have a job in society and that it's with the Texas Rangers. It's a thrill to still have a job and still play baseball, really."

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Bush's route to his Major League debut has been well-documented. He was originally sentenced to 51 months in prison for the DUI. Before that, he faced several other legal troubles after being selected No. 1 overall by the Padres in the 2004 Draft as a shortstop out of Mission Bay High in San Diego.

This season, Bush's struggles have been few and far between since his callup on May 13. His 2.48 ERA is 12th-lowest among AL relievers with at least 60 innings pitched.

Bush has found so much success that it's sometimes easy to forget his troubled past. He's quite aware of how long it took him to get to this point, though.

"I can't just sit back and think I have a gifted arm and I know it's going to be there," Bush said. "I know I need to continue to work and continue to be in shape, especially now that I'm getting over 30. Next year, I'm going to be 31. If I don't work hard, if I don't do the right things, then something is going to catch up for me."

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Bush's triumphant return to baseball will carry on into the postseason -- much like the regular season, he'll likely be counted on in crucial late-innings spots. He has thrived in those situations, even picking up his first save on Aug. 10.

"To gain that late-inning experience, going through what it feels like to stare down at some of those hitters knowing nobody is behind you, I think that's been crucial," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.

The trust the Rangers have placed in Bush is significant. He's rewarded that trust, holding opponents to just a .196 average through 61 2/3 innings.

Bush secures the win

"It's a little eye-opening," Bush said. "It's strange to me, because my last full season was my only full season I pitched, in Double-A [with the Rays], and my ERA was a 4.80 or something."

Bush credited his workout regimen while away from baseball for helping him succeed so quickly.

"I was definitely busy a lot over the days when I was away from baseball, working out a ton," Bush said. "Then when I was released [from prison], I was still working out a lot. I really focused on my bullpens and my throwing programs. I just have to remember all the hard work I've put in and continue to do it."

General manager Jon Daniels commended the efforts of special advisor Roy Silver, who also helped get Josh Hamilton on track, for pointing the Rangers toward Bush. That included watching him throw in a Golden Corral parking lot near his release facility in Jacksonville.

Bush's Major League debut

"[Silver] followed Bush through his whole situation while being incarcerated," Daniels said. "Not because he thought [Bush] was going to work one day with a team as a Major League reliever, but because that's where his heart was -- sincere and genuine. You look up now and see how that's manifested for the organization."

Giving players like Bush a chance is why Daniels believes the Rangers have been so successful for the better part of the past six years. They're not afraid of acquiring players in different ways, and they're not afraid of letting someone turn their career -- and life -- around.

"Every one of us wants to go to work every day inspired by the people we work with," Daniels said. "You want to be pushed by the people you work with ... We talk about chemistry, culture and makeup, that's what you're talking about. We're trying to bring people from different backgrounds that ultimately have the same intentions and share some level of values."

Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.